The heads of the member Churches of South Sudan’s Council of Churches (SSCC) have empathised with the people of South Sudan who fled their homes to take refuge in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as a result of the ongoing conflict in that country. The heads of SSCC were in Addis Ababa for a meeting when they paid a visit to the refugee settlement hosting South Sudanese nationals.
In a Pastoral message issued 23 June, the Church leaders highlighted several means through which they have tried to encourage peace in the troubled nation. Since the armed conflict in South Sudan began, in December 2013, the SSCC have been deeply concerned about the killings, rape, lootings and human rights abuses prevalent because of the conflict in that country.
According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, there are almost 2 million internally displaced and close to a thousand refugees since the conflict started in 2013. The heads of SSCC in their recent Pastoral message, insist that differences between the warring factions be addressed through nonviolent means and that the rule of law be respected. In 2015, the Church leaders undertook a similar mission to Kigali in Rwanda where they determined to implement an action plan for peace, with the view to address the root causes of the conflict in the world’s youngest nation. The action plan is rooted on three pillars of Advocacy, Neutral Forums (dialogue) and Reconciliation.
During the recent meeting of SSCC in Addis Ababa, the heads of South Sudan’s Churches appreciated the enormous generosity of Ethiopia and its people in hosting the refugees.
“In a world where migrants are becoming increasingly unwelcome almost everywhere, Ethiopia shines out as a beacon of hope and of Gospel values,” the Pastoral message reads in part.
The Pastoral message emphasises important questions as to how the Church can be a light in the situation and how the Church can give hope as she has the responsibility to be the voice of the voiceless. The message urges Ethiopia and other neighbours of South Sudan to continue to welcome those who seek sanctuary across borders. They further call upon the international community to continue their generous humanitarian assistance and plead that much more be done since the challenge is great and resources few.
Having said this, the Church leaders reiterate what they have always said that there is no moral justification whatsoever for killings and atrocities happening in South Sudan since 2013.
The Pastoral message is signed by all the Christian leaders of South Sudan who comprise the South Sudan’s Council of Churches (SSCC).
(Collins Obidiagha, Vatican Radio)